Hardship and hope: Winter, missile storms show Kyiv’s mettle

FILE - People walk through the city center which lost electrical power after yesterday's Russian rocket attack in Kyiv, Ukraine, Nov. 24, 2022. The hard realities of Ukraine’s capital are that a once comfortably livable city of 3 million people is now becoming a tough place to live. But Kyiv has hope, resilience and defiance in abundance. And perhaps more so now than at any time since Russia invaded Ukraine nine months ago. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka, File)

FILE – People walk through the city center which lost electrical power after yesterday’s Russian rocket attack in Kyiv, Ukraine, Nov. 24, 2022. The hard realities of Ukraine’s capital are that a once comfortably livable city of 3 million people is now becoming a tough place to live. But Kyiv has hope, resilience and defiance in abundance. And perhaps more so now than at any time since Russia invaded Ukraine nine months ago. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka, File)

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The play finishes. The actors take their bows. Then they let loose with wartime patriotic zeal. “Glory to Ukraine!” they shout. “Glory to the heroes!” the audience yells back, leaping to its feet.

The actors aren’t done. More yells follow, X-rated ones, cursing all things Russian and vowing that Ukraine will survive. More cheers, more applause.

Bundled up against the cold, everyone then troops out of the dark, unheated theater, barely lit with emergency generators. They head back to the hard realities of Ukraine’s capital — a once comfortably livable city of 3 million, now beginning a winter increasingly shorn of power and sometimes water, too, by Russian bombardments.

But hope, resilience and defiance? Kyiv has all those in abundance. And perhaps more so now than at any time since Russia invaded Ukraine nine months ago.

When Butch, her French bulldog, needs a walk and the electricity is out in the elevator of her Kyiv high-rise, Lesia Sazonenko and the dog take the stairs — all 17 flights, down and up. The maternity clinic executive tells herself the slog is for an essential cause: victory.

“You will not get us down,” she says. “We will prevail.”

When Paris was freed from Nazi occupation in World War II, Gen. Charles de Gaulle delivered eternal words that could now also apply to Kyiv. “Paris outraged! Paris broken! Paris martyred! But Paris liberated!” the French leader said.

Outrage at Russia is everywhere in Kyiv. The audience and actors at the Theater on Podil made that crystal clear at the performance of “Girl with a teddy bear,” set in Soviet times and based on a book by 20th century Ukrainian author Viktor Domontovych. When pronouncing the word “Moscow,” the actors spat it out and added a curse in Ukrainian. The audience applauded.

A straw doll and a bowl of pins next to a framed photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Simona pizzeria in central Kyiv also speak of the city’s anger. Plenty of customers clearly felt the cathartic need to vent; the doll is pin-stuck from head nearly to toe.

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